I received this comment this morning on our Medical Exercise Specialist “Facebook” page. This is a long-time concern I have with the fitness industry since we started the MES in 1994. As the industry promotes more collaboration with medical professionals, we should also be very cognizant of the laws related to the use of terms and titles in the medical community.
This is the initial comment: “Doc, you should change the title of your Medical Exercise Specialist to Medical Exercise Therapist, instead.”
My response: “The use of the title – Medical Exercise Therapist would be inappropriate. In the majority of states here in the US, the use of “therapist” in a title is illegal without passing a state licensing exam. It is also unethical because “therapist” denotes a medical treatment being provided. The Medical Exercise Specialist (MES) nor any other fitness-based certified professional provides any aspect of medical treatment. The MES provides ongoing exercise in conjunction with or after PT, OT or chiropractic have concluded – NOT THERAPY.
This is a common misconception in the fitness industry. It doesn’t seem many certifying bodies in the industry are doing much to eliminate these misconceptions. You become a therapist by graduating from an academic institution, offering a speech, physical or occupational therapy or counseling curriculum and passing a state board exam, not completing a fitness certification, and then using a title incorporating “therapy”. I have great concerns about the use of “therapy” in any fitness certification title or by fitness professionals not appropriately licensed.
This has already gotten a number of fitness trainers around the country in trouble with state medical boards. I have personally told fitness professionals not to use titles incorporating therapy or therapist, but they did against our advice. They were investigated and fined thousands of dollars by the state medical boards. ONLY licensed “therapists” can use the title “therapist” or provide “therapy”.
This will become a bigger problem as more fitness professionals migrate into medical exercise or medical fitness. Be clear on your scope of practice and role as a medical exercise or medical fitness professional. Here is the scope of practice we have used at the Medical Exercise Training Institute for 28+ years.
“The Medical Exercise Specialist provides safe and effective exercise for clients with medical conditions after physical, occupational, or other medical treatments have concluded or by referral from a medical professional. The Medical Exercise Specialist provides no aspect of medical treatment or diagnostic services.”
Let’s be clear on the laws surrounding our new and growing profession and disseminate this to students coming in. Ignorance of the law is no excuse under the law.